What is heart valve surgery?
Heart valve surgery repairs or replaces a damaged heart valve. There are four valves in your heart. They are the mitral, aortic, tricuspid, and pulmonary valves. These valves open and close to keep blood flowing in the proper direction through your heart. When the heart valves don't close as they should or are very tight and narrow, blood doesn't flow through the heart the right way.
The most common way to do heart valve surgery is through a large cut, called an incision, in the chest. This is called open-chest surgery. During the surgery, a heart-lung bypass machine is used. It adds oxygen to the blood and moves the blood through the body. This machine will allow the doctor to stop your heartbeat while working on your heart.
In some cases, other types of heart valve surgery may be an option. These include surgery that is done without stopping the heart and surgery that is done through smaller incisions in the chest.
You may stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery. You will probably be able to do many of your usual activities after 4 to 6 weeks. But for 2 to 3 months you will not be able to lift heavy objects or do activities that strain your chest or upper arm muscles.
After you recover, you will probably feel better than you did before you had the surgery. For example, you may no longer have shortness of breath and fatigue. But you may still have heart problems.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
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